Saturday, September 4, 2010

On the banks of the Brahmaputra

On Tuesday, I went down to Guwahati to attend a meeting of the newly formed Federation of North East Christian hospitals. Thanks to all the efforts of Dr. Sedevi Angami from the Dimapur referral hospital and others, this initiative which began a few months ago in Shillong, now looks like it may become something special in the days to come. It was a good meeting with around 35 of us talking about the best ways to optimise and consolidate our varied efforts towards health care in the region. Though all the mission hospitals were not represented, it was still inspiring for me, who was probably the youngest person in the group to listen to these stalwarts of health care in the region who have made something of their call to walk with God. I came back humbled, knowing there were miles to go in my own understanding of missional health care in our country.

It was also good to meet some of my professors from Vellore who were attending the meeting to give support and inputs. Having left Vellore, I can see with a better perspective the effects of the great heritage of Christian Medical College in the way people regard the hospital, especially in the North East. The legacy of the pioneers continues till today through management practices based on Christian values and holding to a high standards whatever the cost. Only by leaving and seeing the reality of health care that exists in most places of our country can we appreciate the excellent work ethic and quality of patient care that are a way of life there. Only then do we realise the great blessing that was given to us to be part of that heritage and the responsibility it places on us. And we learn to appreciate the teachers and mentors who have taken pains to instill in us those same values. These men and women, who treat us like their friends and equals are actually great people who are held in high honour throughout the country. Yet, we never realise it from our interactions as they retain the down-to-earth flavour that is pathognomonic of Vellore, where many of us are happy wearing sandals to work!

This was brought home to me again in the last few days through two incidents. The principal of our college was visiting Shillong for some high level discussions. He called us up and said he wanted to meet us (that is the four of us who were trained in Vellore). After his meetings, he came over to the hospital and we had tea together. After some time, he said he had to get going as he had a dinner appointment. With the governor of Meghalaya!! As we sent him off, we felt really humbled that in the midst of events that were obviously on a level much higher than we could imagine, he still found the time to visit us and share some chai and biscuits....

And in the Guwahati meeting, I was reminded again of the intrinsic humility that our professors retain. As I was having my lunch, the medical superintendent of the hospital finished his and went to the counter to get his dessert - a banana. When he came back, he suddenly put the banana next to me and went back to get himself another, before I could move or react. I have witnessed the high-handed attitude of so many not-so-important people who are in positions of relative power in our medical fraternity. This spontaneous act of kindness, small though it may seem, will stay with me as an example of servant leadership - something I hope I can remember every day, even as I deal with my junior doctors, nurses and other colleagues.

But among all the interesting and humbling experiences of the meeting in Guwahati, the one closest to my heart was the opportunity to witness once again the wonder of God's creation. The Don Bosco Institute, where the meeting was held is a beautiful building situated right on the banks of the Brahmaputra, which is now in spate following the rains. It always amazes me how the Catholic fathers and sisters have invested in places that naturally encourage a contemplative communion with God. The trip to Guwahati would have been worthwhile just for the glimpse of the great river and the sun setting majestically over it in an explosion of colour and vibrancy. I can only stand in awe and say again, How great Though art......


  1. That was a very moving post, Arpit, especially your description of the Brahmaputra in spate with the photoes for us to enjoy. It is also very good to hear your impressions of CMC from outside, and rejoice in the good you see, as from inside we sometimes see only the bleak side.

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